He's had it on his pitching line all postseason, 23 innings worth, but it's looking more unusual each time out. After eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball to pitch the Tigers back to even in this World Series with a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 2, it's looking historic -- Christy Mathewson historic.
"I think everybody should be amazed," fellow starter Nate Robertson said of the oldest starting pitcher to ever win a World Series game. "You're witnessing one of the greatest postseason performances by an individual in the history of baseball."
Oh, yeah, there was that other spot, too.
While Rogers worked out of two-out trouble in the opening inning, the FOX network broadcast noticed a smudge on his left hand near his thumb. So, too, did home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, who determined it was a piece of dirt mixed with resin and asked Rogers to remove it, according to umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo.
The Cardinals didn't complain about it, Palermo added, though others suggested the Cardinals thought the ball was acting funny. If Rogers had any physical edge before, he seemingly had his usual emotional one after that. The runner on second base in the opening inning was the only runner he allowed to reach scoring position.
"If there's any conspiracy theorists out there," closer Todd Jones said, "I think they wouldn't have much of a theory now."
Channeling his energy into his pitching in front of a packed crowd chanting his name nearly every two-strike count, Rogers built upon his inning-ending comebacker from Juan Encarnacion to shut down the same Cardinals offense that roughed up Justin Verlander on Saturday night. Ten St. Louis batters went down in order before Rogers barely missed the outside corner on back-to-back two-strike pitches to Jim Edmonds for a leadoff walk in the fifth. A one-out walk to Scott Spiezio in the sixth was the only other baserunner Rogers allowed before Yadier Molina ended the hitless streak with a leadoff single in the eighth.
It wasn't the same Rogers style as his other two postseason starts, grinding out ground ball after ground ball in going seven-plus scoreless innings each against the A's and Yankees, but he was nonetheless picking up one out after another.
"It's kind of old news tonight," said Brandon Inge. "He's done it two times before. It's pretty easy to win for a guy who does that."
His defense helped him out, this time including the outfield. With Edmonds on in the fifth, Preston Wilson hit a fly ball to deep right-center that Curtis Granderson ran down for a sliding catch. With Spiezio on in the sixth, Rogers had to come over the plate on a 2-0 count to Albert Pujols, who hit a hard line drive to left. Craig Monroe read it well enough off the bat to track it down on the edge of the warning track.
"It's not just one player," Rogers said. "I pitched all right and pretty good, but my whole team has been fantastic for me this year, and that's why I'm having success. But it's not just me, it's from all of us together."
By the time Rogers came out smudge-free for the second inning, he was pitching with a lead. Monroe's franchise-record-tying fifth home run of the postseason and Carlos Guillen's RBI double fueled a two-run opening inning against ex-Tiger Jeff Weaver.
Try as they could, the Tigers struggled to add on against their former ace, dealt to Oakland four years ago for a package that included Jeremy Bonderman. Detroit was unable to score with two runners on base in both the second and third innings, then stranded the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth.
Guillen nearly suffered a similar fate after his one-out triple in the fifth when Weaver struck out Ivan Rodriguez. However, Sean Casey's line drive to right field plated Guillen and ended an 0-for-7 team slump on the night with runners in scoring position.
Most innings in a postseason without allowing a run
|27||Christy Mathewson||New York Giants||1905||WS|
|23||Kenny Rogers||Detroit Tigers||2006||DS/LCS|
|18||Whitey Ford||New York Yankees||1960||WS|
|17||Pedro Martinez||Boston Red Sox||1999||DS/LCS|
|15.2||Duster Mails||Cleveland Indians||1920||WS|
The way Rogers was pitching, the third run was superfluous. Only Mathewson and Milwaukee Braves hurler Lew Burdette have put together longer scoreless streaks in a single postseason than Rogers, now at 23 innings. Should this series stretch to Game 6, he'll need four innings to match Mathewson's 27-inning standard.
"I think he's on a mission," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think that he's one of those guys that have that extra adrenaline. It's worked for him."
It was still working in the ninth inning while Todd Jones went from the verge of a 1-2-3 inning to the verge of a tie game. Rogers could be seen yelling, trying to will a final out as Scott Rolen's single and a Jones fielding error on an Encarnacion comebacker put the would-be tying run at the plate. Edmonds' ensuing RBI double put the run in scoring position before Molina, the Cardinals' hero in Game 7 of the NLCS, grounded out to short.
With that, Rogers earned just the third World Series victory by a 40-year-old pitcher, and the first by a starter that age. Giants reliever Dolf Luque beat the Senators at age 43 to decide the 1933 Fall Classic, then 40-year-old Met John Franco beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the Subway Series in 2000.
The man who has talked time and again about learning from mistakes is still waiting to pay for one.
"I'm no Christy Mathewson, that's for sure," Rogers said. "I've had scoreless streaks before. I'm so glad it's happening for us as a team, it helps us win. But I will never put myself in the category of someone like that or even remotely close. I know I'm just trying to be a good pitcher and make as many good pitches as I can."
Dirt or no dirt, his pitching record has been sparkling clean this postseason.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.